GK: Jon McLaughlin
Fresh from rumours linking him with Blackburn Rovers, the Scotland international goalkeeper racked up his second clean sheet on the bounce in last weekend’s victory over MK Dons - his first back-to-back clean sheets in over a year.
McLaughlin looks back to the form that made him so important last term, and has only conceded one goal in our last three home games. With a settled defence and some renewed confidence, the stopper is earning the right to be first choice over Lee Burge currently.
CB: Willis CB: Ozturk CB: Wright
Jordan Willis continues to shine on the right-hand side of Sunderland’s back three - with a foraging run into the opposition half, he even managed to nick an assist in our last home game. He’s one of the first names on the team sheet.
Whilst last week’s win at stadium:MK may be remembered as the game where Alim Ozturk missed two sitters, his defensive work was, yet again, solid and composed. The growth of the Turkish centre back since he came to the club has been fantastic to see, and long may it continue.
On the opposite flank is perhaps where Parkinson has the toughest choice. Joel Lynch has a steady performance in last week’s win, whereas Tom Flanagan has been in superb form since returning to the side. However, I think new signing Bailey Wright will slot straight into the team. The Aussie was signed for a reason, and there’s no point in delaying his introduction if Parky thinks he’ll improve the starting eleven.
RM: O’Nien CM: Dobson CM: Power LM: Hume
Luke O’Nien has been his usual consistent self and was excellent in helping get the team forward during a tough game at MK Dons last week, whilst Denver Hume just continues to grow and grow.
I’ve often been a critic of Max Power, but he’s been superb since taking the captain’s armband and I thought he was the best player on the park in last week’s victory, whilst his midfield partner George Dobson has been a candidate for man of the match in each of Sunderland’s last three victories.
Whilst rumours of Ollie Norburn and Greg Docherty are encouraging, it’ll be hard for any incoming player to dislodge the middle two if they keep us this level of performance.
RAM: Gooch LAM: Maguire
When Lynden Gooch plays well, Sunderland play well - it’s that simple at the moment.
It would be fair to say that, behind Josh Maja, Gooch was our best player in the first half of last term and it’s fair to say when his form dropped, so did ours. Maybe there’s something in that, because since he’s returned from injury this season, we’ve gone from mid-table plodders to automatic promotion candidates. It’s been some turnaround.
As for Chris Maguire, he’s been just as good.
CF: Kyle Lafferty
Would it be unfair on big Charlie Wyke to go with Lafferty ahead of him tonight? Probably, but we did look more dangerous with him on the field last week - I think Parky will opt to give him a starting berth, and create some real competition up top.
Lafferty, whilst short on fitness, did well when he came on last weekend and should have had an assist to his name if Ozturk hadn’t headed his superb ball over the bar from two yards out.
The former Rangers man is a real workhorse and will chase down absolutely everything with his big imposing figure - his high-pressing game could be very important tonight against a Doncaster side who like to play out from the back.